Anna Calvi Anna CalviAnna Calvi
A fan of David Lynch and Nick Cave (you need only listen to her firmest candidate for a murder ballad, “No More Words”, to realise that this lady grew up listening to Cave sharing the stage with Minogue), the lovely Anna Calvi (with her hair slicked back, or not, and her always red lips) has taken three years to give shape to her first album, “Anna Calvi”. Nursed, she claims, in the strictest solitude, it’s a cross between the Chan Marshall of “Moon Pix” (in her more introspective moments, which are few, and in the start-up, an excellent sample of western pop called “Rider to the Sea”) and the PJ Harvey of “Dry” (replacing violins with the guitar and existential imbalance with a powerful epic that is at times almost like a musical: “First We Kiss” is, without a doubt, the best cut on the album, very The Divine Comedy, but also very soundtrack to any film by Baz Luhrmann).
But what should we expect of a girl who debuts by giving an unexpected twist to “Jezebel”, the Wayne Shanklin classic popularised by no less than Edith Piaf? Or who opens for Cave, surrounded by the rest of the members of Grinderman? Is Calvi following in Harvey’s footsteps? No, she’s not as twisted, Calvi doesn’t disfigure, but rather dresses all of her songs in custom velvet, making them into amulets (like the sacred and visceral “Suzanne & I”) or into late night cocktails at the abandoned hotel bar ( “The Devil” isn’t a monster, but rather a song that fled from a Moulin Rouge in ruins). Lust (in “Desire”, Calvi slips herself into leather and tortures the listener with irresistible whispers like the flick of a whip, with that wonderful, prodigiously sexy rough voice that she has), love (which will never leave us, in that murky, very Lynch “Love Won’t Be Leaving”), and solitude (the girl-lost-in-the-forest moment that is “Morning Light”) come together in an album that is pure vaudeville, pop burlesque, with no additives or preservatives.
Calvi spent the first three years of her life in a hospital, where she says she learned to live with the monsters inside her head. They were all good boys and girls who promised never to leave her all alone. The girl grew up and turned their howls into songs. That is why she declares that her first album is an inventory of her life until now. The lipstick on the bathroom mirror of “Blackout” (the most powerful song on the album) and the romantic epic of the aforementioned “First We Kiss” (a collage song that could fit into any really tragic musical) cross with macabre fables like “I’ll Be Your Man”, very Rob Ellis, producer here and habitual collaborator of PJ Harvey’s (he handles the production of the hair-raising “Down by the Water”), who is partly the main person responsible for making Calvi seem like Polly Jean’s little sister. The main difference? Calvi would prefer any recording by Maria Callas over Patti Smith’s “Horses.” But she’s still got a long way to go.